Inside Haryana's gender sensitisation programme for bus conductors

Till date, 6,000 drivers and conductors have been trained across 15 districts of Haryana. The remaining seven districts will be covered by November-end
A casual Google search on the “number of  sexual assault cases” in Delhi-NCR throws up results that shock as well as enrage. Last week, the Delhi government announced it had installed over 200,000 streetlights across the dark corners of the city to make it safe for women to travel. Meanwhile, a private radio broadcaster ran a month-long initiative where the radio hosts discussed, argued and sought suggestions from Delhiites as well as those in power on how to make Delhi safe for women. 

All these initiatives will remain on paper until women feel “safe” to venture out of their homes. A recent assessment undertaken by the Chief Minister’s Good Governance Associates (CMGGA) Programme in Jhajjhar and Rohtak districts of Haryana found that women, especially young girls, do not feel safe while travelling in public transport. Project Jaagriti, initiated in 2016 under the CMGGA programme, had till now been working in collaboration with the Haryana government and Ashoka University to provide transparency, accountability and efficient service-delivery in the state. However, their latest offering is to develop a gender-sensitisation programme, especially for the bus drivers and conductors of Haryana Roadways. 

“Safe Gaadi, a programme of gender-sensitisation training, was launched by the government of Haryana. This is the first time that the government has let their staff from the Haryana Roadways be a part of such training,” says Itika Gupta, programme manager, CMGGA. It was during one assessment under the CMGGA programme that the associate zeroed down on dark streets in certain areas of Haryana. “The first logical step was to install street lights and ensure all the areas were well lit,” she said.

Then came the task of safer public transport system. “This was going to be possible by creating socially responsible drivers and conductors. So, we trained participants on understanding gender issues and sexual harassment laws, as well as enhanced communication skills and how to manage situations which occur on the bus,” said Gupta. The programme that was launched in June this year aims to cover all the bus depots in the state. 

“Till date, 6,000 drivers and conductors have been trained across 15 districts of Haryana. The remaining seven districts will be covered by November-end,” she adds. The training provided by Manas Foundation includes two trainers who run the sessions thrice a day, over two hours. 

While the programme aims to sensitise over 10,000 drivers by November end, it hasn’t been an easy ride. “There have been logistical challenges especially to ensure that drivers and conductors are able to take time out to undergo the training without disrupting the day-to-day operations of bus services. Depot managers have been instrumental in managing the schedule so that as many drivers and conductors as possible can be trained. There have also been challenges for the trainers when discussing the personal content during these sessions. Most drivers and conductors have taken the sessions very well and engaged positively, but trainers do face difficulties in engaging all the participants,” Gupta says. 

“Such gender-sensitisation training is imperative to address safety of women in public spaces. It will encourage officials to pay attention to issues women and girls face on a daily basis when using public transportation and how to address these issues. It will raise awareness amongst bus drivers on how to address a sexual harassment incident when it occurs on a bus, how to believe victims and take the necessary steps to ensure that these spaces are safe for all women and girls. Hopefully, it will also set a tone of zero tolerance towards sexual harassment in public transportation and encourage women to report such incidents because appropriate action is being taken to address it,” says Dr Shruti Kapoor, founder, Sayfty — an organisation that educates and empowers women and girls against gender-based violence. According to Kapoor, the training must also focus on how to raise awareness amongst bystanders on what to do in case someone is harassed in public spaces.

While the funding for “Safe Gaadi” is being provided by Indian Oil, the programme coordinators are hopeful the positive response will help them expand it to the auto drivers in the state as well. “We want to ensure that when a woman or a girl is in distress, immediate assistance is provided to them,” concludes Gupta.

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